Downtown and Marwell-area residents were invited to the Future Forum at the Old Fire Hall April 25 to share their thoughts for the greater downtown area.
People could drop in, have a slice of fruit, a cup of coffee and grab a sticky note to anonymously share their likes, dislikes, concerns and suggestions for improving the downtown. Boards were set up around the room with pens and stickers. By 5 p.m., the displays were already blossoming with colourful comments and ideas.
The event asked residents to “be the experts,” said Ben Campbell, a city planner.
Similar forums were held in 2007 and 2001 for the downtown and Marwell areas respectively and were largely successful, said Campbell. The decision to hold Marwell and downtown events together this time around is part of a plan to look at the area as a whole, he said, since the areas share a lot of common features.
The areas will still have their own separate development plans, however, he said.
Some of the common issues the city has been hearing about in these areas include better connections for cyclists and pedestrians and waterfront development, Campbell said.
“Heritage and development, housing, transportation, community and economic development — there are lots of things we’re looking at,” he said.
That same morning a similar discussion forum was held specifically for downtown area businesses and nonprofits, said Jane Koepke, one of the forum organizers.
“We do mapping of the business mix, look at areas growing and striving, development and redevelopment opportunities,” she said.
All told, approximately 50 people from businesses and non-profits and 70 community members came out to share their thoughts, Koepke said.
A second event specifically for business owners in the Marwell-area on April 26 brought in about 25 people, she said.
“I think we get the good, the bad and the ugly at these events,” said Mayor Dan Curtis.
Curtis said the informal, open setting of the forum was what made it especially effective for people and allowed them to be “super honest and say what they feel and what they would like.”
“People would feel like they’re in court if we held something like this at city hall,” he said.
The Future Forum also helps the city to identify areas of concern and “misunderstandings,” he said. Many people, for example, are concerned about speed limits in certain areas not being adhered to, but that’s actually the responsibility of the RCMP, not the city, Curtis said.
But overall these events generate great ideas, he said.
“The beautiful thing about being mayor is that I get all the credit for stuff I haven’t even done,” he said, laughing.
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